How Many Ways Can A Pitcher Balk In Baseball With Examples?

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A balk can be described as one of those scrutinized regulations that often confuse when a game is on. Balks are called to help protect the batter/hitter. Calling a balk would limit the pitcher to some ball fakes and pick. When a balk is called, each of the runners moves up a base. The balk would limit the pitcher to some particular types of pitch styles. The umpire uses his discretion to make a balk call. Let us know ‘How Many Ways Can A Pitcher Balk In Baseball With Examples?’.

How Many Ways Can A Pitcher Balk In Baseball With Examples?

How Many Ways Can A Pitcher Balk In Baseball With Examples?

There are 13 recognized ways a pitcher can balk. A balk can come from the way they approach the set position to how they release the ball. To prevent getting a balk call, there are some regulations that the pitcher should abide by. When the pitcher and catcher agree, the pitcher must run to a standstill where his hands are together before making a move for the home plate. Should there be a break in communication/signal between the pitcher and the catcher and this causes a skip in the set. The official can call a balk. The rules might be a bit different because they are often crafty. This is because they have a view of the runners’ lane.

Brief History of Balk 

Balk was officially recognized in the MLB books in 1898. After it was introduced, pitchers could still fake a pitch at the hitter. However, in the 2013 season, it was also introduced to the balk regulations. Most feigns were now called balks. So, it became tricky. If a player drops the ball, it would be called a balk. There are instances where professionally trained pitchers fumble the ball and a balk is called against them. There are instances where teams have won a ball game because of a balk. 

Different types of Balks 

As mentioned earlier, there are 13 recognized types of balks. These regulations were directly sourced from the stables of the MLB. Here are some of the reasons why a balk can be called against a pitcher. 

  1. Making an illegal pitch: If the pitcher makes an illegal pitch that is different from the established balk regulations. The umpire would call a balk on the pitcher.  
  2. Unnecessary game delays by the pitcher: If the pitcher unnecessarily delays the game, he would be given a balk by the umpire. 
  3. The pitcher fails to directly face a base before attempting a throw at the base: If the pitcher attempts to feign the hitter with a no-look pitch. The umpire can call a balk.  
  4. If the pitcher throws or feigns a throw: If this happens while trying to touch his plate to an unoccupied base. The umpire would naturally call a balk. 
  5. Standing on or beside the pitcher’s plate without a ball: If the pitcher is seen near the plate without a ball or feigns a throw without being on the plate. The umpire can call a balk.  
  6. After going to the approved pitching position: If the pitcher removes one hand without an attempt of throwing to a base. The umpire will call a balk. 
  7. If the ball slips out of the pitcher’s hands: If the pitcher loses the ball in the process of touching the plate. Whether knowingly or unknowingly. He gets a balk call. 
  8. If the pitcher runs a pitch when the catcher is not fully in the catcher’s box: The umpire can call a balk whether the act was done knowingly or unknowingly by the pitcher.   
  9. If the pitcher attempts a pitch in the set position without coming to a full halt: The umpire can call a balk if the pitcher does not come to a complete halt before initiating the pitching position
  10. The pitcher initiates the pitch against the batter without looking at the batter: The umpire can call a balk. This is similar to the pitcher feigning the hitter. 
  11. If the pitcher attempts to initiate any pitching position move, the umpire can call a balk. If the pitcher attempts a pitching move at the wrong time to feign the hitter. The umpire can call a balk.  
  12. If the pitcher feigns a throw to the 1st and 3rd base without completing the throw: The umpire can call a balk. This is especially when the pitcher feigns a throw but does not complete the action. 
  13. If while in the motion of touching the plate: The pitcher attempts any throwing motion and fails to throw. The umpire can call a balk.   

However, these numerous balk regulations do not stop the pitcher from feigning the hitter in an attempt to destabilize him while making a throw. 

Common Balk Mistakes 

The major reason why balk was introduced to the game was to protect the runner. It prevents the pitcher from attempting different feigning mechanisms against the runner. This is in a bid to make him miss the ball and allow the catcher to get it. Often, when umpires are not sure about a call, they judge by checking if the pitcher made any attempt to feign the runner. If an attempt was made, then the umpire can call a balk. 

The balk call you often see is when a pitcher does not get to a full halt. It also happens when he does not get the full set position, before attempting to launch the throw. If pitchers can wait for a second after getting the set position before attempting to throw. They would not balk at this rule. If a pitcher makes an off-move while trying to touch his plate. The umpire can call a balk. When such happens, it can be termed that the pitcher was trying to throw off the runner with a feign. Whether it was intentional or unintentional. There is no time luxury to check for that. 

If a pitcher also steps off the rubber with his throwing foot. The umpire would naturally call a balk. This is because it seems like a deceptive move. Any deceptive move that the umpire notices would be called a balk. Especially getting your foot off the plate. Throwing the ball to an unmanned base is another great example of a balk. It is termed an unnecessary game delay. This attracts an automatic balk for the pitcher. If a runner is manning the first base, the pitcher should not attempt a pitch at the third base. 

Another great example is when the pitcher attempts a pitch and the catcher is not yet in his neutral position. This would attract a balk too. There is a catcher box on the field, and the catcher must be fully settled in that box before the pitcher launches his pitch. Though the box can wipe off during the time of play. The catcher box is usually behind the hot plate. If a catcher is outside the box and the pitcher attempt a throw, a balk would be called. 

If you are acquainted with the balk regulations, it would become easy for you to understand every balk call made by the umpire. It also becomes easier to explain to people that don’t understand. This is because you fully understand why the call was made. 

The Set Position 

When balks are called against pitchers, it is often related to the set position. If the pitcher notices that there are no runners on the base, he would make a pitch from the set position. They face the battered rock back and make a throw. Anything different or separate from this and the umpire would call a balk. The pitcher cannot shake or flinch, they can turn their heads to recognize the runner before making a pitch. However, shrugging or flinching during the pitch would lead to an automatic balk.  

Results of a Balk 

One popular question that inquisitive fans ask is; what happens after a balk? When a balk is called against a pitcher. What happens next? When the umpire calls a balk, all the runners would advance a base. If the hitter can make a hit on the first attempt. Then the runners can proceed to another base. When this happens, they continue the play like the balk was never called. This means that even after a pitcher balks. He would still pitch and the hitter would attempt to hit to base. If the hitter misses, a no-pitch would be called. Then they run the play again. If a balk is called on the pitcher and there are no runners on the base. The play is dead. 

Intentional Balks

There have been instances and accusations that some pitchers intentionally balk. Some intelligent pitchers intentionally balk to either prevent a play or prevent some sort of communication with the runner. In the 2019 MLB season, Kenley Jansen pitched against the cubs. He intentionally balked to prevent the runner on the second base from stealing their pitching signs. The runner was automatically moved to the third base. This made it difficult for him to steal the signs. 

Key Takeaways 

  • A balk occurs when the pitcher makes an unrecognized throw or throw attempt with the intent of throwing off either the hitter or the runner. 
  • Another common way balks occur in baseball is related to the set position, throwing the ball to an unoccupied base, and the pitcher dropping the ball. 
  • A balk can also happen when the pitcher fails to make appropriate contact with the rubber plate before making a pitch or tries a deceptive move to throw off the pitcher.  


After reading this article you would understand the different ways that a balk call can happen. 13 recognized MLB offenses can lead to a balk. Though these offenses can be carried out in diverse ways. The article would make you understand the different types of balks that we have. The multiple patterns of some of these balks can happen. It would also discuss what happens after a pitcher balks. What is expected of each player when a balk happens? There are instances where a player intentionally balks. This would be explained appropriately in the article. Balks happen to even professional pitchers. The All-time MLB record for balks is a hall of Famer, and his name is Steve Carlton. Though as a pitcher you should always pitch with the mindset of avoiding balks. The only way to do this is to study the regulation in and out regardless of your player status. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What happens after a balk? 

This is one of the top questions on the mind of most fans. After the umpire calls a balk. All the runners have an opportunity to move up an extra base. After this happens the play continues. A balk call just gives the runners ample room to make an extra run without the pitcher attempting to pitch. After the balk call, the pitcher tries another pitch, and if the hitter connects and makes a run for the base. If the hitter misses the ball, the catcher gets hit and a no-play is called. Understanding the way balks work is important to understanding a baseball game. 

How many types of balks are there?

There are different types of balk motions. However, there are only 13 recognized balk violations. All the multiple balk motions can be categorized under the 13 recognized MLB balk regulations. Here are some of the popular balk calls mentioned in the article. Making an illegal pitch, unnecessary game delays by the pitcher, and the pitcher failing to directly face a base before attempting a throw at the base. These are some of the most common balk occurrences that you would witness in a game. These balk motions happen to even the best of pitchers. 

Can you balk from windup? 

Though seeing this occurrence is often not common. However, this does not mean it does not happen. All the rules mentioned in this article are effective from when the pitcher winds up. So, if the pitcher initiates the pitching motion from the windup, and does not follow through, a balk would be called. If a pitcher stands on the rubber plate and goes ahead to fumble the ball, a balk would be called. What makes a pitcher balk in the wind-up is if there are no runners on the base. Though, naturally, pitchers would make a pitch from the windup if there are no runners available on the base. 

Is balk a pitcher error? 

It often seems that a balk is called against the pitcher. It might be a mental or physical error. Balks usually result in the runners getting an additional base. No heavyweight is placed on the balking regulations. The balk errors are not recorded as a stat against the pitcher. Though` the recent crop of MLB players has familiarized themselves with the game. They hardly get any balk calls during their games. This makes their game develop faster, and also helps build confidence to compete on the big stage. 

How Many Ways Can A Pitcher Balk In Baseball With Examples?
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